SAN DIEGO–Assembly Bill 1522 received a vote of support from the California State Senate’s Judiciary Committee following formal testimony Tuesday morning from District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis and others.
The legislation is sponsored by the DA’s office and was introduced by Assembly member Toni Atkins (D-San Diego). It would prevent victims from being forced to pay spousal support to ex-husbands or wives who are convicted of violent sexual crime against them.
Assembly Bill 1522 was inspired by the case of a San Diego-area woman, Crystal Harris, who was ordered to pay her former husband monthly spousal support during the pendency of his criminal trial. After he was convicted and sentenced to six years, Harris was ordered to pay a portion of his legal fees.
“Victims should not be required to pay their convicted rapist spousal support,” said Dumanis during her formal testimony at today’s hearing. “Yet, under the current Family Code statutes this can, and did happen. We are here today urging you to change the law and help us right this wrong.”
Current law already prevents spousal support in cases of the attempted murder or soliciting the murder of a spouse. AB 1522 would add violent sex felonies to the list of convictions that disqualify a person from obtaining financial benefits from their ex-spouse in a divorce proceeding. AB 1522 passed the California Assembly by a unanimous vote in April. Following today’s vote, the Bill now goes to the Senate floor.
“The District Attorney’s Office is working hard to change the law that allowed Crystal Harris to be re-victimized and today’s vote moves the bill forward in the legislative process. We need to make sure this can’t happen again to victims of violent crime,” says Dumanis.
Harris, whose case brought national attention to the loophole in the law, also testified in support of the bill today. “I never want to think of another rape victim having to go through the re-victimization process that I went through. I urge all people devoted to justice to make sure this bill passes.”
The bill has garnered strong bi-partisan legislative support, with Senators Joel Anderson (R-El Cajon), Christine Kehoe (D-San Diego), Juan Vargas (D-San Diego) and Mark Wyland (R-Carlsbad) and Assemblymembers Marty Block (D- Lemon Grove), Ben Hueso (D-Chula Vista), Martin Garrick (R-Carlsbad), Kevin Jeffries (R- Murrieta), Brian Jones (R-Santee), Jeff Miller (R-Orange), and Holly Mitchell (D-Culver City) signing on as co-authors before the bill was formally introduced.